Friday, July 2, 2010

Q&A: Gifts of the Spirit

Questions from my inbox. What do you think scripture says about the gifts of the spirit and our having them as believers? Also, The gifts being fully alive today and the canonization of scripture.

Answer:

Ok, so let's break it apart so that I don't miss answering any part of it.

What does Scripture say about the gifts of the Spirit?

The gifts are the Divinely ordained means and powers with which Christ endows His church in order to enable it to perform its task on earth.

We find two lists in Scripture of these gifts really... Rom. 12:6–8; 1 Cor. 12:7–11. Each gift is given for a specific reason and each one has Biblical parameters so that the brethren can examine it to see that it is authentic.

In our age of subjective truth and toleration we tend think that we can't tell someone they are false. Well we can, if we are doing it within Biblical parameters.

Gifts of the spirit will always without fail accomplish at least two purposes. One, to Glorify God. Two, to edify the body (the church).

Do we have them as believers? Yes and no. Some we have, and some we don't have. I would say that we still can easily see all of them active today with the exception of speaking in tongues, prophecy, and the laying of hands as a guaranteed healing process.

Now, speaking in tongues. Does it still happen? Truthfully, don't know. I've never personally seen it or experienced it in a genuine form or a form that aligned with the parameters given in scripture for it. I do know that Paul addressed it in 1 Cor 12 & 14. He said that speaking in tongues was done so that people could hear the Word of God in their own language and that it wouldn't be done without an interpreter. If there is no interpreter, then it isn't of God.

You'll notice that most of the charlatans on TV today claiming to speak in tongues interpret their own jiberish. But the Bible says that where tongues is present, someone will be gifted to speak them and someone else will be able to interpret. Furthermore, it will always be for the purpose of glorifying God and edifying the church. If it edifies the speaker, it's not of God.

Laying of hands to heal.

Does God still heal? Without a doubt yes. He healed my daughter of a fatal brain disease. Long story short, the MRI showed it, the subsequent blood tests a few HOURS later revealed it was gone without a trace. God healed her. So does God heal? Yes. Does He respond to our prayers for healing? Absolutely, when healing is in accordance with His will.

Is healing guaranteed in all situations? no. Is it guaranteed when hands are laid? No. Is it guaranteed when you call the elders together as James seems to point to? No. Because what James was talking about with the 'anointing of oils' was a medicinal oil that was like a salve on a wound.

We don't have healing power in our words or hands or part of us. God does. We really don't see much of the laying of hands healings outside of the closed cannon of Scripture (Rev. 22:18 circa A.D 95).

Some of those gifts were for the Apostles for the purpose of giving authenticity to their authority. The already-delivered Word of God, valued and personally applied by Christians for centuries, is sufficient to explain to us everything we need to know of Christ (John 5:18; Acts 18:28; Galatians 3:22; 2 Timothy 3:15) and to teach us, correct us, and instruct us into all righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16).

Lastly, prophecy. Let's say that God still audibly speaks to people today. He will never say anything that adds to, contradicts, or takes away from Scripture. These folks who say that God gave them a 'new' word, are false. Nothing adds to or takes away from Scripture.

Scripture is all we need. God said so Himself... (2 Timothy 3:16).

Couple of good quotes I found on the subject...

Dennis and Rita Bennett (American Episcopalians):
"We should also be careful of personal, directive prophecy, especially outside the ministry of a mature and submitted man of God. Unrestrained “personal prophecy” did much to undermine the movement of the Holy Spirit which began at the turn of the century....Christians are certainly given words for one another “in the Lord”...and such words can be most refreshing and helpful, but there must be a witness of the Spirit on the part of the person receiving the words, and extreme caution should be used in receiving any alleged directive or predictive prophecy. Never undertake any project simply because you were told to by presumed prophetic utterance or interpretation of tongues, or by a presumed word of wisdom, or knowledge. Never do something just because a friend comes to you and says: “The Lord told me to tell you to do thus and thus.” If the Lord has instructions for you, He will give you a witness in your own heart, in which case the words coming from a friend...will be a confirmation to what God has already been showing you. Your guidance must also agree with Scripture...."

Donald Gee (Assemblies of God):
"[There are] grave problems raised by the habit of giving and receiving personal “messages” of guidance through the gifts of the Spirit....The Bible gives a place for such direction from the Holy Spirit....But it must be kept in proportion. An examination of the Scriptures will show us that as a matter of fact the early Christians did not continually receive such voices from heaven. In most cases they made their decisions by the use of what we often call “sanctified common-sense” and lived quite normal lives. Many of our errors where spiritual gifts are concerned arise when we want the extraordinary and exceptional to be made the frequent and habitual. Let all who develop excessive desire for “messages” through the gifts take warning from the wreckage of past generations as well as of contemporaries....The Holy Scriptures are a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path."

Often, too, what is seen as prophecy is actually a spontaneous, Spirit-worked application of Scripture, a more or less sudden grasp of the bearing that biblical teaching has on a particular situation or problem. All Christians need to be open to these more spontaneous workings of the Spirit.

If we adopt a view that says that people are still speaking new prophecy, in the manner that the authors of the Bible did, then we at the same time reject the sufficiency of Scripture. If we open that can then the entire Bible becomes subjective. Who determines which areas of the Bible are being revised through 'new prophecy'?

We have to keep in mind that even Pharaoh's magicians were able to work false miracles so they were either done with slight of hand or done by the devil. Things aren't always what they seem.

None of our views, however, should take away from or diminish God's ability to still perform the miraculous. He can and does. How frequently? Don't know. But I do know that when He does and it is genuinely from Him, even if He is working through a person to do it, that person will go to great lengths to give Glory to God for it and take no acclaim to themselves. (Acts 14:8-18 for a proper response).

That's my take. All in all we want to just be taking in whatever we hear taught by anyone and hold it up to Scripture (Acts 17:11). If it ain't there, we toss it out. If it is there, we embrace it and follow in obedience to Christ.

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